Cota Farms' Blog

January 29, 2013

Living With Dogs – Chapter 3

Why do dogs hate furniture, is it jealousy?  You discover your couch has been chewed and you’re still mad about the kitchen table.  So you pound on your dog a little, the walls shake from your rage and the dog retreats under the bed.  Thoughts of why do I need a dog creep into your mind, and I certainly don’t need two or three.  You love plush carpeting, beige, but not with Rover running in and out and sweet little Cookie always goes and pees in the corner.

I’ll be honest, I often hate what my dogs are doing.  But if you love your dogs and cats you make allowances for such things just as you do for the people in your life.  But you can’t keep replacing furniture to accommodate your animals.  In general I don’t believe that altering your animals is an acceptable solution to this problem.  For example, de-clawing a cat is a very serious thing to do despite the common practice.  Doing this to a cat is like removing a dog’s teeth because you are afraid it may bite someone.

A more reasonable approach in dealing with the animals in our lives is to make adjustments on our part.  Animals are perfect and we can’t make them better.   Yes, I said that, but I will explain.  Animals are the culmination of a very involved process to make them exactly what they are.  They are the best available solution for a life form to thrive in the given environment.  We can’t even come close to doing that without our technology that allows us to survive so a little respect is due.  My livestock guard dogs thrive on our farm in the dead of winter in ice and snow that would end my life in hours without the use of clothing and shelter and central heating.

It is true that we have re-engineered certain animals, mainly livestock, to better serve our needs but it is no improvement for the animal itself.  And we have created breeds of dogs that suite our fancy but in some cases these new animals require us to now care for them as they can no longer survive in nature or sometimes they can’t even reproduce on their own.

So then, with all that in mind I have begun a project to address those areas of incompatibility that we have with our dogs, specifically, redesigning our home to better allow us the interaction with our dogs (and cats and other animals as well) that we want without sacrificing our humanity or living in filth.  Yes, this is the dark side of living with animals and I have witnessed what happens when someone abandons reason and turns their home into a de facto kennel, but that is not what I am talking about here.

I want to go beyond the mud room concept and create a common area for us to interact in.  In times past, when people where not so far removed from the animals that we still rely on for food and other things, homes were designed in just this way.  One common structure had animal quarters on the ground floor while people lived above them.

I realize that my desire is not shared by most people and unfortunately many people have a sort of general contempt for all animals but they are to be pitied.  In future chapters I will give details and photos of my progress toward this dog/people house.

February 4, 2012

Living With Dogs – Chapter 2

A custom built bin to hold dry food as part of your kitchen cabinets places the food in easy reach and saves a few steps every time you feed.  For us that means feeding 8 dogs and some odd number of cats twice a day and that doesn’t count the extra treats here and there.  Here’s a tip, with conscience shopping you can find all meat wieners for $1/lb and that is less costly than dog treats that often have no meat in them at all.  We pile on the treats for our outside dogs in the winter to help fend off the cold.  The only dogs we keep outside thru the harsh winter months are those that are designed for such a life like our Komondork and Great Pyrenees working dogs.  These dogs are amazing; they usually don’t even go to their shelters in weather that would kill the average dog.

It is during particularly bad weather that the whole issue of living with your dogs comes to mind.  Our dogs don’t care about the cold or the rain or the snow, they don’t like thunder and lightning but even bad winds don’t faze them much.  A mud room, if you have one, can be a convenient place for feeding when the weather is bad but you don’t want to hang out there with them and unless you have a dog door in that room for them to get out and do their business you have to clean up more than just the mud.  So we need a place with the convenience of a mud room but the comfort of a basement, easy access for you and the dogs while allowing you to retreat to the house while the dogs can move freely outside to earn their keep if they are guardians.  The room needs to be warm and dry enough to contain a chair and television or computer, phone, etc., but not uncomfortable for the dogs.  The point is that you want the dogs by your side, why else have them?  I won’t even go there as that topic will anger me.  Anyway, you don’t want carpet of course nor an expensive floor or furniture to worry about because the dogs will often be wet or muddy.  You are thinking enclosed deck or patio, right?  Absolutely!  Maybe a small woodstove to take off the chill and windows all the way around, save money by using translucent plastic for the roof.

There are many advantages to this type of construction.  Other than basic good building practices, it doesn’t have to meet any particular code, you can do it yourself if need be, it doesn’t have to be completed all at once, some materials may even be salvage like windows for example.  This doesn’t mean that this space that you and your animals share has to look like a hovel.  A modest deck with pony wall and roof can be architecturally appealing if you use a little imagination.  The rest can simply be stretched screen and that can be covered with plastic during the winter months.  Surplus windows or glass can be added a piece at a time later.  With the proper dog/cat/pot bellied pig door, you shouldn’t have to clean up much poop.  Treated decking and outdoor furniture can be sprayed down when necessary.  For you bird fanciers this room can also serve as a grand aviary.

Why do this, go thru the effort and expense?  Well, the truth is that we live in a world where many people do not share our love of animals and there are times when we need to interact with those people. The amount of time that we spend with our animals verses time spent with these other people in our homes should order the partition of the house.  Unfortunately I can not build another house nor greatly modify the existing house but if I could it would be partitioned 35% such that the other people would see and 65% where I would spend most of the time.  Practically speaking that means two thirds of the house would be Spartan, designed to be easily cleaned and free of stuff.

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